How to set up a digital camera

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Just this once, grit your teeth and read the book.

Just this once, grit your teeth and read the book. Photo: Neil Newitt

Today we will step through the setting up of a digital camera so that you don’t need to know any more than where to find the on-off switch and the shutter-release button. But first, the really bad news. You must find the camera’s instruction manual – and we mean the manual, not the quick-start guide. Once we’ve set the controls you may throw it away, but just this once grit your teeth and read the book.

We are going to set five functions on the camera. You don’t need to understand them, just do it.

1. Set the auto exposure mode to P. Resist the seductive Auto setting – that will give you horrible pictures. P stands for Perfect (OK, it’s really Program). P chooses the right exposure automatically while still giving you control over other settings. P may be on a knob on the camera’s top plate or in a menu setting. Look it up in the book if you can’t find it. Don’t worry about the nerdy A, S and M positions.


2. Set the ISO speed (it means the sensitivity of the sensor to light) to 400. Don’t ask why 400 and not 100 or 6400, just do it. ISO400 is for human beings who want to point and shoot and win prizes.

3. Now set Image Size and Quality. Look them up in the index. This setting is made in the Menu system. Image Size should be the largest option on offer and Image Quality should be the best option. Once these settings are made never change them. Small image size and low image quality equal rubbish pictures. When you email pictures the computer will automatically resize them for transmission.

4. In the menus look for Autoexposure Mode (or Area). Set it to Centre Weighted. And when you’ve done that find Autofocus Area and set that to Centre. Now when you point the camera at the subject and half depress the shutter release the exposure and focus are locked on the important bit of the picture. Keep holding the shutter release and reframe the picture for a gorgeous composition.

5. There is now only one variable button that you need to know about. It is marked with a +/- sign. It is the Exposure Compensation control. If your picture is overexposed (too light) go into the minus zone and take it again. If the picture is too dark, go plus and reshoot. This is the only variable control you need – all the rest has been set for simple point and shoot.

Your camera is now set to Intelligent Person’s Fully Automatic.

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